... Jacqueline Lichtenberg on Sime~Gen, vampires in SF garment and German editions

Jacqueline Lichtenberg... Jacqueline Lichtenberg ...
... on Sime~Gen, vampires in SF garment and German editions

zur deutschen Übersetzung In the first part of the interview Jacqueline Lchtenberg introduced herself and her Sime~Gen-series to our readers. Now we have a more closer look on the series.

Amongst other things, we ask her, whether the Sime~Gen-series is the vampire-myth in SF garment. And we talk the German editions ...

Zauberspiegel: Can Sime~Gen be called a vampiremyth in SF garment? Or would this be inadequate?
Jacqueline Lichtenberg: Wholly inadequate.  I'd say it's more Science Fiction in a Vampire garment.  But even that doesn't begin to scratch the surface.
It's not totally untrue to indicate the core themes of Sime~Gen as being related to the driving conflict we are seeing in the modern Vampire stories, especially Vampire Romance.
Vampire fans generally love Sime~Gen if they prefer Vampire stories that are not horror-genre.  Those who seek horror-genre Vampires really dislike Sime~Gen because the worldbuilding behind Sime~Gen is more like "Star Trek" in that it is the optimistic view of the universe.
The Sime~Gen Universe is built on the concept of the Human as essentially Good.  Given no restraints and no outside control, the Human tendency is to do GOOD.  The Natural Human is constructive, not destructive, and we tend to Love not Hate.
This is an assumption about Human Nature most people need to view via a Science Fiction lens.  It's bizarre.  It doesn't match up with what we think we see in the real world around us.  It's fiction.
But as such, it makes a terrific cornerstone for a science fiction worldbuilding exercise.
Another bizarre assumption behind Sime~Gen worldbuilding is (as with Star Trek) that the universe is essentially benign, a comfortable and welcoming natural home for the basic Human. 
Humans belong in Nature - so there can never be the classic fictional conflict source of "Man Against Nature" -- which is the basis for the biggest best sellers.
The worldbuilding assumption (never overtly stated) is that the physical Human body, the Human Soul, and Nature (the universe around us) is all of one piece, wholly and totally integrated, absolutely harmonious.  This situation exists because God is constantly creating this universe.  We are a song that God is singing -- all in perfect harmony. 
It's only in recent years that I've learned that my theory here has been expounded by legitimate philosophers who know more about it all than I ever will.  I took a course where I learned that the Soul enters reality through the dimension of Time (which is why it doesn't have any physical dimensions and so  can't be detected by science). 
I wrote about that in 4 parts of my Review column, and those columns are posted at:
http://www.simegen.com/reviews/rereadablebooks/2007/index.html
(there are links to all the parts of the columns titled THE SOUL-TIME HYPOTHESIS)
These concepts at the base of the fictional construct Sime~Gen (never revealed in the fiction overtly) run counter to the basic premise of Horror Genre.
Horror's basic premise is that you have to fight Evil, but you can't win; the most you can do is chain it down in a box and shackle it with Holy symbols, or run away and hide.
The premise of Sime~Gen also flies in the face of every science fiction universe assumption that I'd ever read prior to inventing this one.
The essence of "science fiction" is to postulate the unthinkable and then extrapolate how humans would cope with that reality.  What if everything you think you know is false?  Then how do you rebuild your psychological grip on reality enough to function day to day?  That's what SF is about - humans coping with the unknown and the unknowable.
Another "rule" of general fiction that Sime~Gen violates is the ancient adage that "Everything changes except human nature."  That adage became famous in the genre of Historical Fiction. 
One basic cornerstone postulate behind Sime~Gen is:
The Sime~Gen Universe
where a mutation makes the
evolutionary division into
male and female pale by comparison.
Sime~Gen is not "Post Apocalyptic" though that's the only Category Label extant that it's generally tossed into. 
However, the novels that wear that label "Post Apocaplyptic" are often very downbeat, about the desperate struggle to survive in a destroyed, and shattered world, about the horrors of not having modern technology, about looking backwards to an unattainable golden age instead of building a better, new golden age.  It's a term that's come to be applied to stories about barely surviving in a hopeless world which is utterly hostile to the human spirit, and which breaks the human spirit. 
You find this in many Fantasy worlds built on Magic, such as Katherine Kurtz's Deryni novels (much admired by me).  The characters seem to have had their self-esteem drubbed out of them by a hostile world.  In such Fantasy worlds, at some time in  The Past, there was a civilization that had mastered the intricacies of Magic.  They wrote down their miracle-working in grimmoirs and such Books, and bound those books with spells and secrets.  "Now" all is lost, and the only way to do such "miracles" for yourself is to find the magical stone or gadget these prior people made, or find their grimmoirs.  Not one character ever thinks to him/herself, "well if they could do it, we can, too" and then just invents SOMETHING NEW!!!  They're always trying to copy or re-create instead of thinking for themselves, as would a person with a healthy self-esteem. 
The Sime~Gen characters I write about are of a different breed.  While there is a Householding that specializes in archeology and digging up ancient technology (in House of Zeor they're exploring what a "camera" can do), most of the people in this new society think for themselves and invent things, never considering that they can't do something just because they don't know how.
Much of the Sime~Gen redevelopment follows the same course that Ancient humans followed -- for the same compelling reasons.  But there are departures due to their physiological and psychological differences from Ancient Humans.
The PreHistoric event that generates the Sime~Gen situation is not an "apocalypse" as generally depicted in Science Fiction and Fantasy novels -- but its opposite but I don't think there is an antonym.
And it turns out the actual, literal, and traditional meaning of the word Apocalypse exactly fits Sime~Gen -- while the novels the word is generally applied to depict the opposite of the actual meaning.
Here's a nice discussion of the origin of the concept apocalypse on a WIKI:
The article starts with the core of the matter:
------------QUOTE---------
Apocalypse (Greek: ?p???????? Apokálypsis; "lifting of the veil"), is a term applied to the disclosure to certain privileged persons of something hidden from the majority of humankind. Today the term is often used to refer to the end of the world, which may be a shortening of the phrase apokalupsis eschaton which literally means "revelation at the end of the æon, or age".
---------END QUOTE--------------
And it goes on to describe the application to Christian visions -- and of course that came from the Jewish origins.
The essence of the reference is to the Biblical descriptions of the Messianic Age, and to the turmoil that is prophesied to precede that age.
At the time I created Sime~Gen I hadn't learned any of this "apocalyptic" stuff.
At that time, the SF literature was dominated by Atomic Bomb apocalypses, and all of my favorites were about human mutants Andre Norton's STARMAN'S SON etc.
All of those were cautionary tales (like Silent Spring) or outright Horror Stories (humans are so evil at heart that left to themselves they will destroy themselves - stupid or evil humans in a hostile environment.)
So, being a science fiction writer, I postulated the opposite.
Instead of God cursing humans with utter destruction for our essential shortcomings, WHAT IF ....
The essence of science fiction is "What if....?" or "If only ....?"  or "If this goes on ...."  I learned from reading about how to write that the best SF combines all 3 of those speculations.  So I did.
WHAT IF - humanity is good, but stubbornly refusing to learn compassion?
IF ONLY - humans would become sensitive to the pain of others
IF THIS GOES ON - God will Bless us with a very definitive lesson.  A lack of compassion will become a capital offense. 
So in Sime~Gen, because of God's love for us and his Universe, God blesses us.  If you postulate that God is real (a terrible stretch for some people, but this is SF after all -- no pain, no gain)  -- and that the Soul is real, then Death can be only temporary.  Reincarnation could be real because God, being rather sensible, would recycle these complicated creations called people. 
Redesigning the Universe so that a lack of compassion is a capital offense is just God's method of training us in a lesson we really do want to master. 
It's a lesson in how to make life easy, how to get along, how to live without destroying that which supports life (our ecology - Sime~Gen is an answer to the problem of using up all Earth's oil for energy and not being able to restart civilization after collapse of this one). 
So the Souls of these characters have undergone a whole series of short, ugly lives terminating in horrible deaths until the lessons of compassion are driven deep into the fabric of their beings.
Of course, being human, they don't all learn at the same pace -- so there are some dunces in this class. 
The worldbuilding theory is that the bell shaped distribution curve for compassion among humans has had it's peak shifted maybe 10% toward the compassion end of the X axis.  Because of this, the events in the novel Zelerod's Doom and the subsequent year or two in the Sime~Gen chronology are plausible.  Given the same problem today among Ancient humans (us), the events would not have gone that well at all. 
So you might say Sime~Gen redefines the label "Post Apocalyptic Literature."   And Sime~Gen redefines the label "Vampire Novel." 

Zauberspiegel
: Sime~Gen tells the story of the Simes and Gens, a society of two different types of humans. How do you refer to the two ... are they different types of humans? Races? Species? Since the younger readers in particular will very likely not know the novels, please tell us more about it. What is this society like? What are the relationships between the two of them like?
Jacqueline Lichtenberg: The Sime~Gen Mutation split humanity into Simes and Gens. 
Some Simes are male, some female.
Some Gens are male, some female.
Children of either or both Sime and Gen are neither Sime nor Gen, but just children. 
The child of 2 Simes has about a 1/3 chance of turning into a Gen at puberty.
The child of 2 Gens has about a 1/3 chance of turning into a Sime at puberty.
The child of a Sime and a Gen -- all bets are off.  (and yes, they interbreed, which makes some dynamite stories!)
I used the terms Sime and Gen only until fans discussing the universe on a Listserv (which has moved to Facebook Sime~Gen Group) kept running into the English syntactical need for an equivalent of the word Gender.
So we did what Jean and I are generally prone to do -- we let the fans make suggestions and then we took a vote on what the term equivalent to Gender should be.  We have always let the readers guide the direction of the stories, and fans who write stories in this universe (which we publish online) sometimes see their additions to the universe incorporated in print.
The word "larity" won -- I'm not sure of the etymology, but I suspect it has something to do with Lateral Tentacles.
You see, Simes have tentacles on their arms, Gens don't.
Since the stories are scattered among thousands of years of human history, the character's assumptions about their own Nature changes.
Nobody knows (and the universe premise is that the characters will never know, which is part of their problem) what the actual cause of this mutation was.  They do know that Ancients looked like Gens (some statues survive).
So, since no Sime has ever zlinned (Simes have senses Gens don't) an Ancient, it was at first (pre DNA science) assumed that Gens were Ancients and Simes were the different ones.
As their assumptions change, their society shifts to adjust. 
After the collapse of Ancient (pre-mutation) civilization, about a thousand years of chaos intervenes.  This is pretty standard in human history's archeological record - when a major civilization such as Ancient Rome collapses, it takes about a thousand years to get things together again. 
During that interval, the afforementioned short, ugly lives are lived with horrible ugly deaths until compassion is learned.
As compassion is learned, a third mutation begins to survive puberty -- the channels, who are Simes with two nervous systems instead of one.
In Jean Lorrah's novel FIRST CHANNEL, one such channel discovers (because of the Gen he loves) that he can take selyn (the energy of life) from a Gen without killing the Gen and later give that selyn (channel it) to another Sime who can then survive a month without killing a Gen.
The problem humanity faces is that Gens produce abundant amounts of life-energy (selyn) but their bodies use very little, if any.  Simes don't produce any selyn in their tissues, but their bodies run on selyn not calories (they don't eat much except to replace protein and minerals to keep cells alive and replaced).
When a Sime takes selyn from a Gen, the Gen dies.
Of course, the other Gens aren't happy about that.  Wars ensue.  Wipe out all the Simes and that solves the problem. Nope, the children of Gens still turn into Simes and form bands of Freeband Raiders, killing for the fun of it.
Some Freeband Raider gang that gets too big to move around settles in and forms a Sime government, domesticating Gens by breeding them in pens and doling them out to tax-paying Simes.
They defend their "Territory" -- and before long the landscape is dotted with odd-shaped Sime Territories surrounded by Gen Territory, and the border wars begin.
Into this situation comes The First Channel (son of a Genfarm owner where they breed Gens for the Kill). 
In the direct sequel, CHANNEL'S DESTINY, we see how the Forts begin to form, little walled villages of Simes and Gens who live together using channels as intermediaries.
In THE FARRIS CHANNEL we see how the Forts can't survive and how they evolve into the living-groups called Householdings that eventually band together into an organization called the Tecton -- which evolves in ZELEROD'S DOOM into the Modern Tecton (a government that manages both Sime Territory and eventually Gen Territory) -- and there are novels yet to be written about the Interstellar Tecton.

Zauberspiegel: You often worked together with Jean Lorrah. How did you meet? How did you begin to write together? What is it like to work so close with another person for such a long time? How do you split up the work on your writings? Did your cooperation only cover Sime~Gen?
Jacqueline Lichtenberg: I first encountered Jean's writing during the compilation of STAR TREK LIVES!  Jean had co-authored a STAR TREK story which we wanted to include in a center section of STAR TREK LIVES featuring fan fiction -- no fan fiction devoted to any TV, film or book series had ever been professionally published, aired, or discussed in professional journalistic media of any kind at that time. 
It turned out that the fanfiction section would make the book too long, (and yes, they were against the concept of fanfic, and there were nasty copyright issues with Paramount which owned Star Trek at that time).  So it wasn't included.
However, to their utter astonishment STAR TREK LIVES! was a best seller and went 8 printings -- we blew the lid on Star Trek fandom!  So Sondra Marshak took on another partner, Myrna Culbreth and did the anthology STAR TREK: THE NEW VOYAGES (and some sequels, plus some original Trek novels) while I went on developing Sime~Gen.
When HOUSE OF ZEOR first came out in Hardcover, I sold copies I had bought myself to Star Trek fans I knew via snailmail magazines and groups.  I sold it on a money back guarantee (the hardcover was exorbitantly expensive).  The guarantee was only to Spock fans.  People who liked Trek for reasons other than Spock were not my target readership for HOUSE OF ZEOR (though McCoy fans were the target of UNTO ZEOR, FOREVER).
I sold over 60 copies of the hardcover on the guarantee and never had one returned.
Jean Lorrah, however, was not so much a Spock fan as a Surak fan.
So HOUSE OF ZEOR both worked and didn't work for her.  She wrote a review in a fanzine titled Vampire In Muddy Boots calling House of Zeor a novel that was flawed in the way of typical first novels.
She was a professional writer at that time, but hadn't sold a novel, and didn't know the "flaws" evident in first novels are there not because the author can't do any better, but because publishing houses would BUY a novel that was a first novel that did not have those "flaws."  Catch-22.
Very soon after the publication of House of Zeor, my mailbox exploded with mail.  I couldn't handle it all and found myself writing the same thing again and again.  So I started making as many carbon copies as I could and putting them out in circulating lists (asking each person to forward it to another on the list).
That didn't work well, and before I knew it, Betty Herr had taken over creating a mimeographed fanzine Ambrov Zeor. 
For the first issue, we wanted to publish Jean Lorrah's insightful review, so I wrote to her and asked permission.  Within months she'd sent in several fanzine stories set in Sime~Gen -- and soon after that we met at a Star Trek/Media convention where she showed me the outline for a longer story.
I loved it, and told her to do a couple chapters and an outline and I'd submit it to Doubleday as by Jean Lorrah and Jacqueline Lichtenberg.
They bought it but it was way too long, so it had to be split and became both FIRST CHANNEL and CHANNEL'S DESTINY -- there's a third story in that trilogy which we might do someday as a screenplay.  The events in that third book are summarized in THE FARRIS CHANNEL.
If you are now thoroughly confused, you may want to look at the official chronology in the order in which they happen in Sime~Gen history, rather than publication order.
So for FIRST CHANNEL and CHANNEL'S DESTINY Jean wrote the first draft of a chapter, and sent it to me (usually daily, but sometimes in chunks) and I would retype the chapter, making changes to the background and tweaking wording.  She would rewrite my rewrite and I'd do a final draft from that.  We did all the chapters, then smoothed the book as a whole. 
For ZELEROD'S DOOM I first drafted and she second drafted -- she decided she just couldn't cope with my rough-drafting method (which I've since changed to require less rewriting). 
So recently we've been brainstorming what happens and writing independently -- but these works are still collaborations, and as coherently interwoven into telling the future-history story as possible. 
We have very different world-views, but Sime~Gen is not a series but a universe -- to tell its story you must have a lot of worldviews included.  Hence the fanfiction is an integral part of the experience of reading Sime~Gen.
Read a Sime~Gen published novel, read some related fanfiction posted on simegen.com/sgfandom/   -- then re-read that published novel and you'll find you're reading a totally different novel.  That effect makes the published novels worth their price -- even the price of the audiobook versions.

Zauberspiegel: From the series only "The Haus of Zeor" (Dt: "Das Haus Zeor") and "Unto Zeor, Forever" ("Für Zeor auf ewig") had been published in German. When the Moewig Verlag cancelled its SF-paperback program, there were no follow ups (something I deeply regret). Was there no interest in publishing further books from this series? Are you trying to find a German publisher right now?
Jacqueline Lichtenberg: At this point, we're not actively searching for a German publisher.
Alas the Moewig Verlag translations (you did see the discussion of their cover art on the Sime~Gen Group?) were highly inaccurate, misleading, etc.  We do have some fans in Germany (mostly through Trek Fandom) and thankfully they read English.  However, their outcry is the loudest.
With ebooks and audible.com versions being instantly available worldwide, the pressure to do translations has abated.
I suspect an opportunity with a real fan who is able to do good translating would be irresistible! 

Zauberspiegel: In the USA the series was not only continued, it was pretty succesful and had and still has a big fandom, which is also very active. The series formed to a whole universe that does not only involve you and Jean Lorrah, but that is actively involved and where fanfiction plays an important part. How did this fandom form?
Jacqueline Lichtenberg: How did Sime~Gen fandom form?  I couldn't honestly say it ever FORMED.  It's an amorphous sprawl of happy role players who just love bouncing ideas around and rewriting the established Sime~Gen Universe exactly as Star Trek fans (me, too, with Kraith) rewrote Star Trek.
The fans create all these alternate universes that I just totally adore, and another one just started bouncing some ideas around on the Sime~Gen Group on facebook.
Remember those 60 copies of HOUSE OF ZEOR that I sold on a money back guarantee?  Well they were to Spock fans, who were mostly fans of my Kraith Series of Star Trek fanfic -- and the reason they knew me was from reading fanzines, in which many of them also wrote stories.
I drew a bead (aimed) directly at that nerve that Spock's character twanged in those writers, and they responded to Sime~Gen the same way they responded to Trek -- the reached out their hands, grabbed the wet clay of my universe, and remolded it.
And that's how Marion Zimmer Bradley taught me -- molding my words with her hands, running my words through her typewriter, kneading them as you knead bread. 
The Star Trek fan writers sent me Sime~Gen stories they'd written.
When you've got a tiger by the tail, there's nothing to do but swarm aboard and ride it.  So I sent the stories to the editor of Ambrov Zeor (which was various people at various times) and she published them. 
OK, it wasn't quite that simple.  Before I would allow anything to be published in Ambrov Zeor, I had to make sure it met the highest professional standards of craftsmanship I knew how to meet.  So often a fan written Sime~Gen story would go through 3-5 rewrites before it went to the editor and copyediting (and more little tweaks and twiddles) -- the exact same process any professional publishing house uses.
By doing this, we trained a lot of writers in the craft, and several editors, two of whom are working professionally now on the basis of what they learned then.  I can think of two of the writers who have sold professionally, also.  But many fan writers just don't want to write professionally -- not that they don't want to turn out high precision craftsmanship, but that their subject matter isn't geared to the commercial markets.
That squeezes a lot of material into the fanfic market which is now online with all kinds of fanfic spun off from TV shows.  Many of our writers still write in those venues.
Another phenomenon that I've been following in aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com is the Indie publishers and e-publishers and Indie writers doing their own works.  This is a kind of creativity that had no outlet when so many were writing Sime~Gen fanfic. 
At one time there were 5 separate Sime~Gen fanzines publishing, and consulting with each other to coordinate which conventions which issues would debut at.
Most of that material that we have been able to clear rights for now resides on simegen.com/sgfandom/   for free reading. 
Also in that section of the simegen.com domain you will find a large amount of my own work -- an early draft of UNTO ZEOR, FOREVER so you can learn how a novel can morph before publication, plus some unpublished work.
There is also that first short story I sold, OPERATION HIGH TIME. 
And there's new fanfiction going up in two sections. 

Zauberspiegel: Is there something like a "bible" for the series that is guiding the people who are involved in fanfiction? If there is, what does this bible contain?
Jaqueline Lichtenberg:
No, there's nothing written down to guide writers.  We did do a "bible" for the Kraith stories because at one time there were 50 people creating Kraith, but I don't think we've got that many working in Sime~Gen (I could be wrong; haven't counted).
I honestly wouldn't know how to assemble a "bible" for Sime~Gen writers. I'd say read and re-read the published novels in various orders, and come to the Sime~Gen Group on Facebook, ask questions. 

Zauberspiegel: There is a very active group concerning Sime~Gen on Facebook. What significance does Facebook have for you regarding Sime~Gen?
Jaqueline Lichtenberg: The facebook question is easy: spam killed our Lists on our old server. End of 2011 we moved to a new server, but it doesn't have Lists installed, and now the world has changed (again) and almost every one we know is on Facebook, so Zoe Farris created this Group for us and we've been gathering here for a year. Eventually, I suspect we'll have our private Lists or Boards or whatever back, but for now it's public on facebook.

Kommentare  

#1 Heiko Langhans 2012-04-24 20:07
Kleine Korrektur: Ein dritter Band (Lichtenberg & Lorrah: First Channel) ist 1988 bei Moewig (#3830) unter dem Titel "Die dritte Art" erschienen. Da war die Reihe aber schon so gut wie erledigt.
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